Co-development of reading and math skills across an academic year and its longer term predictive significance

Co-development of reading and math skills across an academic year and its longer term predictive significance

First Author: Christopher Lonigan -- Florida State University
Keywords: Co-development, Decoding, Comprehension, Mathematics, Longitudinal
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose: Problems in reading and math tend to co-occur. Despite this overlap, co-development of reading and math skills is an understudied area. The goal of this study was to examine the co-development of reading and math skills during children’s initial school years to determine common and unique patterns of growth in each academic domain.

Method: The sample included 280 children (mean age = 117.66 months, SD = 18.70) who were originally recruited when they were in preschool - 3rd grades and were reassessed 2-1/2 years later. Children completed multiple standardized measures of reading (decoding, comprehension) and math (calculation, fluency, word problems) three times in their initial recruitment year, and they completed these same measures at follow-up.

Results: Parallel-process-growth models were used to characterize reading and math skills in the initial recruitment year. For end-of-year status, correlations across skills within reading and math domains were high (rs > .83), and correlations between skills across domains were moderate (rs > .42). For reading skills, correlations for growth were moderate to high (rs = .49 - .76), but, for math, correlations were low (rs = .02 - .31). Cross-domain correlations for growth were moderate for some math and reading skills (e.g., r = .35 for decoding with math fluency). When these growth parameters were used to predict follow-up scores, reading skills were only predicted by status and growth in reading, but math skills were predicted by status and growth in both math and reading skills.

Conclusions: Co-development across reading and math was neither consistent nor bi-directional. Although reading and math skills are highly correlated, these high correlations do not appear to be the result of common patterns of growth. Moreover, early development of reading predicted future math skills, but early development of math skill was not predictive of future reading skills.